Iconic rock posts and arches jutting up from the sand along the Washington coast are what define the Olympic National Park's beaches. A dozen beaches provide endless exploration for hikers and distinctive foregrounds for sunset gawkers and photographers. The sea stacks, stumps, and islands also provide a necessary refuge for birds and aquatic wildlife.

Where to See Sea Stacks

The bucket-list destination is at the northern end of the park - Point of Arches on Shi Shi Beach. Checking off this view requires an 8-mile out and back hike, half of it through a dense forest.

Exploring sea stacks takes less effort at the southern beaches, many of which include parking lots and restroom facilities. Our favorites include Rialto Beach (easily accessible for sunsets from Forks, Washington), Ruby Beach (north of Kalaloch Lodge), and South Beach.

How Sea Stacks are Formed

Water is a powerful thing. Waves crashing against headlands erode the rock. First caves are formed. Then when the caves break through to the other side, the formation becomes an arch. Finally, when the center of the arch collapses, it forms a sea stack.

Need an Olympic National Park map? Buy the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Olympic National Park map at REI.com. The map includes clearly marked trails and points of interest such as scenic views, campgrounds, trailheads, boat launches, picnic sites, ranger stations and more printed on waterproof, tear-resistant material.